Friday, April 25, 2014

Quilting Friends Retreat Invitation

We had so much fun on our spring retreat in March at the Cross Roads Center NJ, I decided to go ahead and book another one closer to the end of 2014. Two nights and three days didn't seem long enough for many of us that attended, so I have booked the retreat for a Wednesday - Sunday, a 5 days/4 night quilting retreat/excursion.

Here are the details:

Dates: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - check in starting at noon through check out by 2 p.m. Sunday, November 16th.

What's included: 13 meals starting with lunch on Wednesday, through lunch on Sunday. The food is served family style in a log cabin dining hall 3 times a day at pre-determined times.

I can attest that the food was very tasty, plentiful, widely varied and the staff is willing to accommodate special dietary needs if notified in advance. Here is a picture of the dining hall.

No stairs and best of all, NO DISHES!

A clean room complete with fresh linens and private baths, each with two twin beds, small table and chairs, dressers and heat/ac temperature controls.

The sink is outside the bath area, which make is convenient for both occupants.
Nice, thick, thirsty towels.

A beautiful, shared workspace with extraordinary lighting.
The tables are large, and there are couches and chairs in addition to the tables and comfortable sewing chairs for all.

There is a gas fireplace and a shared, handicap accessible bath off this room.
There is even a beautiful deck off the main center room, perfect for reading and getting fresh air and sunshine.

The main room also boasts a nice, modern kitchen completed with granite counter tops, a big fridge, microwave, sink, dishwasher and coffee pots. Plenty of room for sharing healthy snacks and goodies.

In addition, there are two nice sized rooms that can be set up as cutting and pressing areas, complete with tables and chairs, and large screen TVs if you want to watch some DVDs while you sew. Each of these rooms also have closet space, design wall space and coffee, fridge service. They are located at either end of the same building we will be using. There is also handicap ramps to these rooms if needed.

Okay, so you are probably asking yourself, what's all this fun going to cost?
5 days/4 nights stay (Wed-Sunday) is $323 per person/double occupancy. ($110 deposit due by May 23rd to reserve your spot)
Should you require a private room (based on availability), it will cost you $30 more total, or $353. ($120 deposit due by May 23rd to reserve your spot.)
3 days/2 nights stay (Fri - Sunday) is $185 per person/double occupancy. ($65 deposit due by May 23rd to reserve your spot.)
Private room rate for Fri-Sunday will be $215 (based on availability). ($80 deposit due by May 23rd to reserve your spot.)

Crossroads Christ Center can host up to 30 people. We need to guarantee at least 15 people to get the meal plan. Since there is no stove available, this is what I have booked initially for 20 people. Space is available on a first come, first serve basis.

A deposit is due within 30 days of my signing the contract with Crossroads or May 23rd. The remainder of the retreat payment is due 20 days prior to the start of the retreat, on or before October 27, 2014.

This will allow me to give them the final count two weeks prior to the retreat.

You may make the check payable to CrossRoads Retreat Center and send it to me before May 23rd to reserve your spot. Please specify your preferences and provide me with your contact information (name, email address and phone number) when mailing your check to me at:
Diane Fama
31-12 Rosalie Street
Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

I will do my best to accommodate room-mate requests. I am also happy to answer any questions via email at:
The retreat center's website is:

Spinach Artichoke Dip Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I have always been a big fan of any dish with spinach, including Spinach Artichoke Dip. However, the version you get in the restaurants is jammed packed with fat, calories, carbs and salt. There has to be a way to make this in a healthier version. So I set off to experiment.

You will need:
4 fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, shredded
1/2 cup drained, rinsed and chopped artichoke hearts. (Rinsing reduces the salt content by 25%)
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 TBSP of shredded low fat Mozzarella cheese
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 large clove chopped fresh garlic or 1/4 tsp of garlic powder
Non-stick cooking spray or Olive Oil

Trim all visible fat from chicken breasts, wash and pat dry. Set aside.

Mix spinach and artichoke together in a microwave proof bowl. Microwave in high for 90 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir in mayonnaise and the two cheeses. Add onion powder, black ground pepper and garlic and stir until well mixed. Set aside.

Grill chicken breasts in a hot grill pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray or olive oil to prevent sticking. Cooking time will vary depending on on the thickness of the pieces of chicken. Ours were pretty thick, so I grilled them for 7 minutes on each side and then split them down the middle almost all the way to essentially 'butterfly them" and and cooked them further butterfly side down until they were golden brown and done, but still juicy.

Flip breasts over so split side is up and spread 1/4 of the dip mixture across the top. Close each breast so dip becomes stuffing, reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook 2-3 minutes longer, until the filling is warm and the cheese begins to melt.

Serve immediately and sprinkle with additional cheese if desired. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Modern Quilt For Austin

I was finally able to give my beautiful niece Austin her modern quilt that I had made for her. it was completely done in solid fabrics all shades and intensities of greens. It was strip pieced with a variety of long stripes from the different colors.

I decided that I wanted to break up the field of strips with something unexpected. So, I created several free form sets of small wonky blocks that could be considered improvisational piecing. I had learned this technique awhile back from a Ricky Tims class. I seem to recall he rendered to it as "dancing squares". I split the striped portions of the quilt both vertically and horizontally, inserted the wonky square sections, and sewed everything back together.

It's an oversized queen quilt. I quilted it with a very new, modern pattern that I really loved working with. Even though the pattern is a pantograph,the stitching contains many surprise elements and was fun to do on such a large quilt. I finished the quilt with my favorite magic binding technique which really framed the quilt edges up nicely and should last for years.

Now I am just waiting to hear if Austin or Jim had any special dreams sleeping under it for the first time...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

52 week Quilt challenge update - #7

I didn't want to publish a photo or story behind this quilt until after it had been given to the person for whom it was made. I was asked by Beth Rowan at rock, paper, scissors in Montclair NJ
if I would be willing to quilt a quilt top that she had created for one of our guild members who has been ill. Of course I agreed. Beth's request was simple, she needed it turned around quickly and to just do "big some swirly things on it."

I took it home and quilted it within 3 days. It was easy. I used a turquoise blue thread and found a pattern that was fast and interested called Modern Swirl. It looks like an 'evil eye' pattern to me. The person receiving the quilt had recently lost her eyesight due to her illness and I have found that in Europe, the evil eye is given as a gift to protect the one that wears or carries it around. I have several of these evil eye pendants and charms in my possessions from when I spent time in the Mediterranean area.

The quilt was carefully bound by Stephanie Mullen and presented to the sister of the intended recipient at our March guild meeting. I hope Peggy likes it. I decided that it could count as one of my 52 weeks of quilts challenge. So it is #7. It was lovely to work on this and know that her eyesight has returned...

In addition, I had quilted a very large queen size quilt for Peggy Kelleher and her sister showed it a the guild meeting. Below is a photo of part of the finished quilt which I actually finished in late February, hence why it is assigned #7.

Photography credit goes to Ashley Hinton of the NJMQG who snapped photos of both of these before they got away from me.

I HATE JUNK MAIL!!!! The Big Shred...

Today was defined as a house cleaning day for me. I started my morning early to get a head start on the big task which was long overdue. With spring's arrival, the dogs go into their winter coat shed mode and the dust bunnies magically appear ready for Easter. A quick vaccuum wouldn't do the trick, it needed to be a get down on your hands and knees and really spring clean deal.

So after my first cup of morning joe, I sat down with piles of mail that needed sorting. Mike often brings the mail in for me and dumps it on the coffee table. I have to sort through it when I get time and lately, I've been so busy I hadn't made time except to glance at it and pull out the important items like birthday cards, bills, and health care coverage cards. The rest goes into 3 piles, magazines and flyers to peruse at a later time, obvious junk mail that needs to be shredded and or tossed and items that should be reviewed before being tossed. I know better than to just toss the junk mail, credit card applications, etc. I need to open those up, block out my identity and any other information that could be used by ID thieves, and then shred or toss.

I've come to the conclusion after spending almost 2 hours shorting through this stuff and filling two TJ paper bags full of recyclable paper materials, that I need to move my trusty shredder right upstairs by the front door and start to shred when the stuff first arrives. Why I hadn't thought of this before is beyond me, but its obvious that most of it can just be shredded and recycled rather than putting it off to review and then do to same in one fell swoop at a later date. My coffee table will thank me and I won't have this daunting task to deal with any more.

Back to cleaning for now.